View Full Version : Magic Items...to use or not to use...

05-20-2009, 04:34 PM
This is to all the DM's out there...

I've noticed that there is a great division amongst DM's and players regarding the use of magic items and their availability, commonality...etc.
I've had some players trying to buy a sunrod, as if it were a candle, and trying to pick up a healing potion as if it were common fruit from a cart...I usually don't allow potions of any sort until at least level 6...i think it maintains the special nature of the magic items in question...and i know everyone is different; so...

My question to those of you out there is this...

Do magic items, weapons, potions, etc...play a signifigant part in your campaign? If so, are the easy to attain, or is it something profound that they have to earn and/or stumble upon?

If not, do you use said items at all?

And finally, how hard should getting these things be? (What is a good balance?)

05-20-2009, 05:01 PM
All depends on the style goal, really. Balancing items, in this case, is where rules meet style of play - a fantasy Batman-styled campaign ("Where do they get all those wonderful toys?" ask the villains) will have a dramatically different approach than a survival-oriented dungeon crawler.

I myself don't care much about the loot (the treadmill is tolerable in video games, where a computer does all the math work for me, but otherwise not so much :P), so games I run aren't focused on the fiddly bits of itemization. Magic anything is descriptive, not mechanical. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I likes it ;)

05-20-2009, 05:07 PM
I use the wealth by level chart in the DMG to guide what each PC should have. And often enough, it keeps the power level to a medium that way. I usually make masterwork items more available than magic items though. I also choose from a low level list of magic items from the Magic Item Compendium until higher levels when I make higher level stuff more available, and I give the powerful items names with backgrounds so that it's not just a +3 Flaming Dwarven Waraxe, it's Dorgan's Ironfist's personal weapon that has been lost for centuries since the War of Anvil's under Mount Drackar. "BrazenBlade" was thought to have been able to start the very fires of a forge with just a word ...

05-20-2009, 05:23 PM
You'll hear that over and over for stuff like this - its all about the flavor of your campaign. When i used to play in FR, magic shoppes existed and magic as a class was almost like a job of any type - there were tons of mages. Magic was readily accessible and i made it that way. It was fun to take players into backwaters and isolated areas where they could NOT buy healing and items needed that they were so used to. I'll take a stab to answer these from my current game's perspective:

Do magic items, weapons, potions, etc...play a significant part in your campaign? If so, are the easy to attain, or is it something profound that they have to earn and/or stumble upon? If not, do you use said items at all?

Yes they are VERY significant... because they are rare. In my current world, which started off a DnD world, magic was rare. Its practitioners were misunderstood and to be feared - this allowed simple cantrips like present to be used to terrify and empty an entire inn. A lot of groups quest to get mystical weapons or divine items - and all magical items are made for a purpose requiring a lot of sacrifice. I try and use a lot of NON-MAGICAL items that grant bonuses in creative ways. A +1 non magical sword is just as good in about 90% of the foes you will face... but until you can find a real magic weapon, you gotta use a bless to hit those nasty magic to hit" - this creates a bond between cleric and warrior of how they can be used to compliment.

And finally, how hard should getting these things be? (What is a good balance?)
Really it depend son how hard you want it? That in itself has a lot of complicated factors. How hard do you want it to be for your NPC's? Again, in my own world, these are all made for a reason. some items can be made and sold easily - one use items like elixirs and triggered effects. However a permament item requires permanent sacrifice... if so, how many magical blades would there really be?

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-20-2009, 05:34 PM
In my games, definitely not. In others I've played in, excessively so. This is not to say there isn't magick in my games, there is, namely mages and the sort.

I like to run my games dark and gritty, allowing players to get creative when figuring out how to even, or better, their odds against a foe.

Friends that i have played with love magick items in their games, even going so far as to have little shops in every town that sell said items.

In the end, i believe in the less is more philosophy, but do recognize that others are somewhere else on the field of opinion. Either way, i love playing the game.

05-20-2009, 08:59 PM
In the primary type of campaigns I run, magical items are generally only attainable through quests. Characters are able to acquire higher quality items that replicate magical attributes without actually being magical (i.e. swords that get a +2 bonus on att and dmg but can't shed light, weigh as much as a regular sword, and can't be differentiated from regular swords with detect magic). Healing potions are available for sale in most larger urban areas, and many fun but not necessarily powerful items are rather common.

05-20-2009, 09:12 PM
my games have magic in them but i tend to keep it to a minimum. i also limit what is available in the towns. however i do grant as treasure some items that may or may not be of use (depending on how characters use them) later on in the campaign. it all depends on how you personally feel about how much magic you allow in the game period. if limit for characters then limit for monsters and npc's as well.

05-21-2009, 06:07 AM
As much as I hate to bump my thread, i do have something else to throw out there...

Anyone ever have a 'Monty Hall' kind of DM, that just gave things away?

(Oh, by the way there's the Hand of Vecna in a jar, if you want it.)?

05-21-2009, 07:48 AM
I learned real quick back in the day (high school), that if I Monty Hall'd the players, the game turned really stupid.

In a recent game (recent as 5 years ago), I started limiting the magic and level restricted the items. IE: +1 = levels 3-5. +2 = levels 6-9. So basically, if they weren't high enough level, the character couldn't use it.

However, I thought it was a cool idea to let them build their own items (or pay someone to). That got out of control - fast. Mind you, they were levels 17+, but it really broke the game.

In NWN, I created very low magic worlds where (like what Templeorder noted), they were dependent on the Cleric and Magic User buffs. Healing kits benefit Healing Skill, and stores/shops sell masterwork items, nothing higher. The magic items can be found during adventures. And it's always wise to have your magic user rested up and ready to nuke.

In a future game, if I can get a group together, I intend to run a v3.5 game that is low magic, high adventure, where magic users shine but eventually it'll balance out in the higher levels. But not get insane. (Crossing my fingers)

05-21-2009, 08:13 AM
Anyone ever have a 'Monty Hall' kind of DM, that just gave things away?

Yea (and we call them Monty 'Haul' - as in you have to get several wagons to haul the treasure away :lol:)... even i did it when my war cry was 'treasure and xp!'. DnD lends itself to this sort of thing more as the modules published really threw a lot of magic out there, so it came to be part of the culture. Strangely enough, and the same time i was playing DnD, i was also doing Runequest, a decidedly NOT Monty Haul world. So, it just depebds on the setting and group expectation... but its flavor too. If i'm taking characters through Tsojcanth (as an example), heck yea its gonna be magic rich. Realistically, how do you survive stuff like that otherwise? In my world, any place like that with 90% of the encounters being top level predators, would have wiped itself out in a horrible battle - meaning what was left was even worse to encounter... and had all the treasure.

I occassionaly do it today, as i am pretty stingy otherwise. Every so often i throw in a big score, thousands of coin, items of value, art, land... a massive score that allows big gains in the armor, weapons, and items department for the characters (of course their upkeep is now greater too!). Its fun to throw in a big score. As "adventurers", hoarding is kind of useless - if you die with 100,000gp what good will it do you? When you do present a lot of treasure, make sure they find a way to spend it. Also consider economics... 10,000 in emeralds is going to kill any local emerald economy if the PC's start dropping it - possibly creating tensions with local populace = adventure idea! Whoohoo! Make the Monty Haul and adventure to get rid of!

05-21-2009, 09:58 PM
I loves me some magic items in my campaigns, I does!! HOWEVER, the huge majority of them are one shot items. I have more versions of potions and scrolls around than you can shake a stick at - and they are cheap (for the most part). This also includes one shot items that make either you or an area immune to (crappy) one shot magical items for a time.

However, a legitimate +1 sword is something to behold - and the only thing that just blows through that crappy anti-magic shell stuff... much to the chagrin of those that employ them!!

And much like has been said before - you won't find a +1 sword - you'll find Ashar's Blade of Ultimate Doom that was looted from his grave some 40 years ago.

05-22-2009, 12:41 AM
I run a magic rich world. The lower level spells are common and potions are usually the first magic that is encountered.

05-22-2009, 08:04 AM
I also run a fairly magic rich world. I don't have shops on the corner to buy magic from, but you can find a mage or (in rare cases) a wizard college/guild that would be willing to sell you some things. Of course they are usually crazy with their prices and the rules by which they sell things!

However, when it comes to actually providing my characters with magical items I find that I don't give them too many. Usually it ends up being situations where a character in the upper levels might have half a dozen magic items total. I do typically make those magical items rather powerful though. It becomes a trade off. Do you want five +1 swords, or do you want that one amazing vorpal sword.

05-22-2009, 04:28 PM
In my Eberron campaign...
I use the wealth/level chart from the DMG to strictly meter the treasure the characters receive. Many of the more "common" magic items (+1 swords, potions of healing, etc.) are available for purchase from House Cannith magic shops (and the occasional independent operator), which can be found in most cities, with a caster level limit equal to the party's average level plus two. Anything else has to be commissioned on a per-item basis and special/rare components must be provided (sometimes resulting in an adventure when the characters need to make an acquisition). But first you have to find an artificer or other spellcaster willing to take the commission.

That being said, nearly all major magic items end up being brought into the game as treasure taken from conquered foes. This again is regulated within the weath/level guidelines and I keep a pretty tight grip on what the characters find. They almost never just find items with a caster level more than two above the party's average level. Anything that I feel would be disruptive to the campaign in any way is not allowed no matter what.

05-22-2009, 08:30 PM
It seems like there is often an overload of magic items. With all the various magic items available and even more with the supplements, players expect to be able to get a lot of what's available. With the ability of characters to Craft their own magic items with the proper feats it becomes even more overloaded. Magic by it's nature shouldn't be too prevailant. As I am creating my new campaign world one thing I keep asking myself is 'how to make magic more magic?'. One thing I am working on is crafting magic items (at least those more than +__ sword) costs more than just the feat, gp and time. Special rare materials are also required. Getting these may involve a dangerous quest. Not only will this keep players from being magic item vending machines, but will explain a rarity of too many magic items even existing as even the NPCs that created them will have a harder time doing so. Although I have had magic shops available in most campaigns, they have always only had limited low level stock. Players were never able to just buy any magic item they wanted just because they had enough gold to pay for it, even in the biggest metropolis.

05-31-2009, 06:58 PM
I do allow items, but alter the general make up a bit. Healing potions are available from differing temples, but cost quite a bit and it rises steeply should you not be a follower, almost doubling in price if not tripling. There are quite a limited amount in any temple, so they only have so many they are willing to part with.

Nearly any other item has to have been created divinely (god's blessing) or through a Mage and it requires a lot of time and effort. All items are named and I never reveal what they actually are. All are unique, from a +1 dagger to a vorpal sword. The characters can try and identify it, but it only reveals its nature and little else. The players did finally start using 'Know History', which gave some very interesting aspects to nearly every item in game.

It might seem like taking a little more time, but something as simple as an Item's history and Name can mean a world of difference.

05-31-2009, 08:50 PM
I do allow items, but alter the general make up a bit. Healing potions are available from differing temples, but cost quite a bit and it rises steeply should you not be a follower, almost doubling in price if not tripling. There are quite a limited amount in any temple, so they only have so many they are willing to part with..

I can't give you the last one. If I give you the last one I'll be out of stock.

06-01-2009, 12:07 AM
I've also had charlatans running around my world... you know - snake oil salesmen!

Here's a perfectly good healing potion!! Guaranteed to heal 6+2 worth of damage - not 'D'6 - six full points! Just don't use it until tomorrow. Sorry, I won't be here tomorrow!" Then, it heals 1 hp of damage - if that.

Of course, it only cost 10gp...

"But Hrothgar, what do we do with the other 147 that we bought??"

06-01-2009, 12:46 AM
Do magic items, weapons, potions, etc...play a signifigant part in your campaign? If so, are the easy to attain, or is it something profound that they have to earn and/or stumble upon?

If not, do you use said items at all?

And finally, how hard should getting these things be? (What is a good balance?)

I run deliberate low-magic campaigns. I prefer a game style in which it's the wits of the players, not the goodies they own that gets them through adventures. Now, by low-magic I mean 99% of all magic items are one shot items - potions, scrolls, and wands. However, they are not plentiful. I have it that metamagic feats can't be taken until 7th level to keep players from creating them willy nilly. Magic Weapons, Armors, Rings, and the Miscellany are much, much less present, being more a discovery in a dragon's hoard or defeating some outer planar beastie or some such truly heroic event. The other kicker, is with spells and psionic powers. I have adjusted spell and power lists, in which the Wizard and Psion do not gain access to 6th level spells until 18th level, with 7th, 8th, and 9th levels not being attainable until around 21st, 24th, and 27th level respectfully. Clerics and Druids have they same spell gain limitation. Wizards, Psions, Clerics, and Druids gain spells and powers slower. Not an issue with Clerics and Druids as they have decent mundane capabilities - HP, BAB. To compensate for the Wizard and Psion, since they are basically losing the primary benefit of reaching high levels, they gain the ability to cast/manifest more spells of each level. This allows me to keep things like Dragons, Demons, Devils, and othe creatures that have spells and spell-like abilties to be the type of threat I feel they should be to a group.

Personally, I don't think there is a good balance for gaining items. It's all personal preference.

06-01-2009, 01:57 AM
Magic became more meaningful as my experience with the game grew. The first group I used to play with was very Monty Haul-ish at the start. I mean, I had a 3rd level paladin who already had a Holy Avenger sword! (Never did get to summon my warhorse though!)

Later on when I was DM, I started to limit the magical items just laying around in dungeons. At the very least, I upped the ante by giving magical items a stronger guardian than the group was ready for. If they managed to work out a solution to getting the item, great! Otherwise, they knew they were overmatched and moved on. Sometimes they were hired to retrieve a magical item of some sort, but weren't allowed to keep it, or use it, without serious consequences.

Something I started doing much later on was having the players roll for their characters chance of having something minor that was a family heirloom of sorts. Maybe grandpa was a mage and brewed a potion or two that had been hidden away in a cupboard. A +1 sword may have been compensation for being a guard for the king and was put away for the first-born son. I found that little things like that gave the items more meaning to the players, rather than "You have a +1 short sword".

William Murderface
06-06-2009, 11:56 AM
while not a GM i've noticed that recent GM's have a strick 15% chance of magical items being in the campaign so while they are allowed no their not easy to get and their always crucial to the campaign although not as usual cause sometimes it's seemingly useless objects like a candle or once we had a magical beelte sculpture that allowed 1 person to change their size 4 times per day and there was a max and min size so caps were used but still it was very fun and unmagical dependant